The Spirit Wrestler Gallery is pleased to present this extraordinary exhibition to you. Broad in scope, Fusion brings together artists from the Inuit, the Northwest Coast, the Plains of Canada, and the Māori culture of New Zealand. This exciting work celebrates both the depth and diversity of style and the commonality of experience of First Nations artists working today.
These cultures are now producing new work coming from a position of strength — and when they have the chance to interact, which is happening increasingly, they are mutually charged by their insight, depth of perception and commitment, further inspiring their own work and belief in what they are doing.
Many of the works in this exhibition show the parallels from such divergent groups. The historical similarities between nations of the Pacific Northwest and the Māori go beyond simple definition of clan structure and etiquette to the very core of their beliefs. Today, dialogue between First Nations groups internationally has given a new vibrancy to the art, reaffirming the energy of each culture with an opportunity to integrate new strengths gleaned from the observation of others. Some of the works here have cross-cultural interplay while others provide a window for us to view something quite intimate that may not have been seen before.
This exhibition also celebrates the movement of First Nations artists to embrace the transitions occurring around them. This crucible of change is reflected directly in the use of new materials, ideas, and symbols providing the iconography to help represent the forces and pressures impacting on their societies. A number of the artists whose work is shown here have had formal training and have returned to their art fortified with new perspectives that offer exciting possibilities.
Cultural artifacts were rarely made without purpose, and the objects or imagery produced had a direct relationship to the tenets of the culture that produced them — and their relevance or importance could change with the pressures on the society at that moment. In each of the cultures shown here, importance and significance were ascribed to those with a gift for creating the images that have come to visually define the culture — and this is no different today.
Without denying the power of the legacy of the past, many of the artists have voiced a strong desire to move forward. From Spirit Wrestler’s inception, we have been supportive of this idea — many of the artists in this exhibition have been featured before in our exhibitions, “New Visions,” “Amulets to Art,” and “Premonitions.”
In Fusion, artists are dealing with the central issues of their culture in the last days of this century, with the promise and expectation of their role in the next. By its very nature, Fusion is a survey exhibition and there were many more artists whom we would like to have included. However, we hope that the premise of this exhibition — that of challenge and the freedom to move forward, to explore, and to have fun — can for the artist be a part of the sharing of their vibrant culture, both in traditional and contemporary terms.
On behalf of Nigel, Gary, and Colin, and all of the artists who worked so hard to meet the challenge of this exhibition, I welcome you to Fusion: Tradition and Discovery